One of the delights of these days of sede vacante has been reading John Allen's 'papabile of the day.' Today's seems to be the last, on the possibilities for an American pope. Given age and health concerns, Allen puts aside Cardinal George (who would probably be my American candidate in the end) and focuses on Dolan, O'Malley, and Wuerl.
I have to go with Wuerl--not in a positive way, but by process of elimination. This is nothing against the man, and I would be perfectly happy to see him elected. I'm sure he would make a fine pope. There's even something vaguely Roman about his face. I remember watching him on TV and finding his teaching helpful, back in the days when I was a catechumen and he was bishop of Pittsburgh.
It has been amazing to observe the swell of support and hope for O'Malley here in Italy. I think Allen is quite right when he says that if the Romans themselves were still in a position (or still willing to riot) to demand the election of their candidate, O'Malley would probably be elected pope on the first ballot. In a way it makes me feel good; it shows how something about Franciscan-ness (dare I even say Capuchin-ness?) gives people hope and captures something that matters at the heart of Christianity in a very Catholic way. Nevertheless, as one of my confreres has reminded us in these days, Franciscan popes have not usually been a good thing for the fervor and observance of the Order. Therefore, all politics being local, it's hard for me to get behind the O'Malley candidacy, though I would certainly rejoice with the the people of Rome and with the Church Universal to see him become pope.
Even though each time I have met him and I have come away impressed and encouraged, I can't endorse Cardinal Dolan either. To do so would be, for me, to beg the Lord's condemnation. You see, when Dolan came to New York to be archbishop, I was working in one of our parishes there. As part of his arrival he put on these wonderful cookouts for the clergy and religious. I went to one of them and it was a lot of fun. In the midst of my gluttony I even performed an act of charity. The person tending the (open) bar turned out to be from El Salvador. In those days I could still speak a little Spanish, and we got to talking. I told her that she should put a glass for tips. Priests were generally cheap this way, I explained, but that was no reason to give up all hope. I mention all of this just to say that if I were to hope for a Dolan papacy, my first thought would be that perhaps he would do all this again, and now that he had followed me to become my bishop a third time, we would get another fun cookout. After almost a year away from the cuisine of my people, I can't deny that it's an attractive thought.
But in this I would be begging the Lord's own condemnation in John 6:26. If I may inculturate the language a little bit, 'Amen, amen, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate the burgers and were filled.' What can I say? I'm a glutton and a drunkard. And though I take courage that the Lord himself was said to enjoy the company of gluttons and drunkards, I can't base my hopes for the conclave on it.
Come Holy Spirit, illumine the minds of our Cardinal electors with the fire of your love. Amen.